Fantasy

NFL Offseason Moves: Fantasy Breakdown Part I

The NFL offseason changes a lot of things for fantasy. Recently, I released my pre-draft rankings for NFL Draftees, but that isn’t the only player movement that matters. There were quite a few free agent signings and trades that will matter not just for NFL teams, but for the fantasy owners that count on them every week. I’ll go through position by position in a 2 part series to assess the fantasy implications of all of the moves I consider to be relevant. Whether you are a dynasty or re-draft player (or both), you win fantasy football in the offseason!

Quarterback

Sam Bradford, Eagles
Old Team: Rams
Fantasy Value: Way Up

Considering that the Rams have one of the worst receiving corps in pro football, it would have been a major help for Bradford to get traded to just about any team in the NFL not residing in Cleveland. The fact that he was traded to beloved fantasy coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles makes him an incredibly intriguing sleeper if the team doesn’t flip him in an effort to land Marcus Mariota. As a pure passer and prospect, Bradford is worlds better than the departed Nick Foles, who averaged 18.9 fantasy points in 21 games under Kelly. After back to back ACL injuries, he is certainly a risk, but will serve as one worth taking in the later rounds of drafts.

Nick Foles, Rams
Old Team: Eagles
Fantasy Value: Way Down

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Do you remember that Rams team I talked about having a terrible receiving corps? Foles will be heading there, and it is a huge hit to his value. While his job will certainly be secure, this is a team that is expected to feature the run game heavily (in true Jeff Fisher style). The team drafting a top wide receiver like Amari Cooper would be helpful, but Foles will be well off my radar in 2015. He will do more good for the Rams offense as a whole, providing stability at a position that the team has struggled with the last two seasons.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets
Old Team: Texans
Fantasy Value: Up

I truly believe that the Jets are going to be a really nice source of fantasy value this season (I’m serious). Chan Gailey is a terrific offensive mind, getting the best out of mediocre talent in both Buffalo and Kansas City. One of those mediocre talents found his way back to Chan when the Jets traded for the veteran quarterback in March. From 2010-2012, Fitzpatrick averaged 15.8 fantasy points per game (4 pts/TD). That isn’t otherworldly, but it would have been good for QB18 last season when prorated to 16 games. Considering that he is likely to go undrafted in a lot of leagues (going as QB31 in MFL10’s), that does represent some value, and will make the Harvard grad a useful streamer this year, especially when we consider that the Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, Jace Amaro trio is better than anything he’s ever had in his career. This is also a strong plus for all Jets receiving options as it means the likely end to Geno Smith.

Matt Cassel, Bills
Old Team: Vikings
Fantasy Value: Up, But Still Irrelevant

A poor man’s Alex Smith (I’m as disgusted as you are), Cassel could actually bring some stability to the Bills in a Greg Roman offense. That said, the team is sure to run the ball at one of the higher clips in the league, and I would not expect to play the former Viking at any point this season. He will (hopefully) be good for Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin alike.

Running Back

LeSean McCoy, Bills
Old Team: Eagles
Fantasy Value: Up

I wrote about this when the news broke in March, and my stance has not changed. Down the stretch in Philly, Shady was seeing his usage taper off, losing touches in the passing game and around the goal line. Rex Ryan and Greg Roman have not only been run heavy coaches, they have also heavily featured their top back when he was talented. McCoy is still one of the best backs in football, and has a decent chance to hit a career high in rushing attempts this season.

DeMarco Murray, Eagles
Old Team: Cowboys
Fantasy Value: Down

There is no question that the Chip Kelly offense creates space for downhill runners like Murray to take advantage of. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that he matches the 449 regular season touches he received last season. Darren Sproles and now Ryan Mathews are also in tow in Philly to keep that from happening. Combine that with the loss of the Dallas o-line, and this is an arrow down kind of move for Murray. Keeping a star in the backfield will be good for Sam Bradford and the rest of the offense.

Frank Gore, Colts
Old Team: 49ers
Fantasy Value: Neutral

I think a lot of people are going to end up overrating Gore after his move to the Colts, but he should be about as solid as he’s been in San Fran if he can stay healthy. Indy only ran the ball 337 times last year with their running backs. Considering they have one of the best quarterbacks on the planet, it is unlikely that number rises too much, meaning Gore would have to receive around 75% of those carries in order to match the 255 he received last year. He should get more opportunities in the passing game, as Colts backs received north of 110 targets last year (Gore only received 19 in San Fran).  In the end, all of these factors may cancel each other out, keeping Gore as a low end RB2.

C.J. Spiller, Saints
Old Team: Bills
Fantasy Value: Way Up

Call me crazy, but I really like Spiller’s chances to succeed in New Orleans. Here are the facts:

1) The Saints have traded away or cut the following players: Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Pierre Thomas, Travaris Cadet, Robert Meachem. These players accounted for 335 targets (50.8%) last season. The two running backs accounted for 106 targets (16.1%) on their own.

2) The Saints plan on replacing these players with a healthy Brandin Cooks (70 targets in 10 games), Josh Hill (20 targets in 16 games), and presumably an early round rookie receiver.

3) C.J. Spiller has recorded 158 career receptions in 70 career games (7.6 yards per reception) despite the presence of another pass-catching back in Fred Jackson. Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson have only 61 career receptions combined and average just 5.75 yards per reception.

4) The Saints gave Spiller a 4 year, $18 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) after re-upping Ingram for 4 years and $16 million ($7.6 million guaranteed).

Spiller should have tremendous reception upside in this offense, even if they run it more than they have the past few seasons. On top of that, the fact that he is making MORE money than Mark Ingram suggests that they are at least equally important to this offense, meaning Spiller could see quite a few carries in addition to what he does in the passing game. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him end up as a high end RB2 in PPR leagues, maybe higher.

Shane Vereen, Giants
Old Team: Patriots
Fantasy Value: Slightly Up

What kind of Shane Vereen fanatic would I be if I was going to give up on him now? Again, we see a situation where the money paid to the new runner (3 years, $12.35 million, $5 million guaranteed) is greater than that of the incumbent (4 years, $10 million, $2.98 million guaranteed). Vereen is making over $2 million more guaranteed as well as $1.6 million more per year. That money speaks volumes to me, and I think Vereen will see plenty of carries. This is an offense that was so desperate for running back touches out of the backfield that Andre Williams received 37 targets (!). If Victor Cruz struggles coming off of his torn patellar tendon, we could see a lot of Vereen in the slot in addition to the backfield. All in all, he has a shot to set a career high in touches this season, and should come at a fairly cheap price.

Reggie Bush, 49ers
Old Team: Lions
Fantasy Value: Way Down

After an injury-plagued 2014 season, Bush’s fantasy value has hit the lowest it’s been since his last season in New Orleans. In San Francisco, he will exist as a passing down back for an offense that does not throw it very often to it’s running backs. Perhaps the most important part of this signing is that it will cap the upside of new teammate Carlos Hyde.

Roy Helu, Raiders
Old Team: Redskins
Fantasy Value: Up

It was a season of what could have been in Washington last year, as the more talented Helu (yeah, I said it) took a backseat to Alfred Morris again. However, his new landing spot should provide some more opportunity. Yes, lead back Latavius Murray is loaded with talent, but he has already missed an entire season with an ankle injury and isn’t a firm bet to be able to withstand a sizable workload. The only other competition for Helu is Trent Richardson, who I won’t even dignify with a spot in this piece. This could be the year he gets his shot.

Stevan Ridley, Jets
Old Team: Patriots
Fantasy Value: Way Up

Ridley’s value goes way up if for no other reason than the fact that it exists now that he is with the Jets. Chan Gailey has done wonders for running games in the past, and the fact that the team brought in the former Patriot after his arrival bodes well. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chris Ivory was eventually cut if Ridley appears fully healthy in camp or pre-season play. The team may bring in a passing down upgrade over Bilal Powell via the draft, but this one looks like a two horse race for an early down thumper role.

DeAngelo Williams, Steelers
Old Team: Panthers
Fantasy Value: Up

DeAngelo wouldn’t have even made this list a week ago, but things have changed in the wake of Le’Veon Bell’s 3 game suspension for the start of the season. That makes Williams the lead rusher on a team that ran the ball over 26 times a game last year. He doesn’t have much left in the tank, so I wouldn’t go investing anything of merit, but there is now some value here.

 

 

Featured Image Source: philadelphia.cbslocal.com

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